Bike to Work Day is tomorrow in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere around the United States. If you haven't been on your bike since the day you bought it at the local Sports Mart, these five tips will make your bike trip to work more enjoyable and hassle free.
1. ABC Quick Check! Air, brakes, cranks and quick releases. Check the air in your tires, ensure your brakes work, make sure the moving parts such as the cranks, chainring, chain and cogs won't fall off, and be certain your tires are attached tightly to the bike. More here on things to check quickly on your bike. Be sure the bike fits approximately correctly, too: your knees, butt, back and arms will thank you for it.
2. Follow the rules of the road. That means ride right, signal turns, avoid sidewalks, stop at stop signs and red lights, and yield the right of way where appropriate.
3. Ride defensively. If you drive, you know by experience how other drivers will behave. Watch for potential right hooks, left crosses, the 'door prize' and other surprises. Bicycle Safe has specifics on the types of collisions and bone headed moves to watch for.
4. It's not a race. If you're not conditioned for that 10 mile commute to the office, you'll poop yourself out after mile two if you push yourself to go too far too fast. It's okay to take it easy, go slowly and enjoy the ride. I know in the San Francisco Bay Area nobody gives a flying patootie how fast you are.
5. Clean up tips. If you don't have shower at work, shower before your ride and wipe down after you arrive at the office. In spite of what some people tell Mr Roadshow, a shower isn't really necessary. When I bike commuted across Fort Worth, TX, I used a washcloth, some soap and a sink in the men's room. Action Wipes are handy, too. The Bay Area is mild enough right now that you can get away with wearing your office clothes if your commute is short. You may need to change your clothing in warmer and more humid climates.
Don't forget to enjoy the ride! For more good information on biking to work, check out Robert Hurst's The Art of Cycling.
What are your tips for the bike commuter?
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I tend to wool gather during my commute. My mind wanders and my pace suffers. There are times I welcome a nice rabbit to chase. It gets my heart rate out of the gutter.
The best route for taking a bicycle is probably not the route that you drive your car. Seek out the smaller streets that run parallel to major thoroughfares. If you can, avoid going past high schools when students are driving to/from school etc.